In contrast to canonical phage endolysins, which require holin-mediated disruption of the membrane to gain access to attack the cell wall, signal anchor release (SAR) endolysins are secreted by the host sec system, where they accumulate in an inactive form tethered to the membrane by their N-terminal SAR domains. SAR endolysins become activated by various mechanisms upon release from the membrane. In its inactive form, the prototype SAR endolysin, LyzP1, of coliphage P1, has an active-site Cys covalently blocked by a disulfide bond; activation involves a disulfide bond isomerization driven by a thiol in the newly released SAR domain, unblocking the active-site Cys. Here, we report that Lyz103, the endolysin of Erwinia phage ERA103, is also a SAR endolysin. Although Lyz103 does not have a catalytic Cys, genetic evidence suggests that it also is activated by a thiol-disulfide isomerization triggered by a thiol in the SAR domain. In this case, the inhibitory disulfide in nascent Lyz103 is formed between cysteine residues flanking a catalytic glutamate, caging the active site. Thus, LyzP1 and Lyz103 define subclasses of SAR endolysins that differ in the nature of their inhibitory disulfide, and Lyz103 is the first enzyme found to be regulated by disulfide bond caging of its active site.
Phage lysis is a ubiquitous biological process, the most frequent cytocidal event in the biosphere. Lysis of Gram-negative hosts has been shown to require holins and endolysins, which attack the cytoplasmic membrane and peptidoglycan, respectively. Recently, a third class of lysis proteins, the spanins, was identified. The first spanins to be characterized were λ Rz and Rz1, an integral cytoplasmic membrane protein and an outer membrane lipoprotein, respectively. Previous work has shown that Rz and Rz1 form complexes that span the entire periplasm. Phase-contrast video microscopy was used to record the morphological changes involved in the lysis of induced λ lysogens carrying prophages with either the λ canonical holin-endolysin system or the phage 21 pinholin-signal anchor release (SAR) endolysin system. In the former, rod morphology persisted until the instant of an explosive polar rupture, immediately emptying the cell of its contents. In contrast, in pinholin-SAR endolysin lysis, the cell began to shorten and thicken uniformly, with the resultant rounded cell finally bursting. In both cases, lysis failed to occur in inductions of isogenic prophages carrying null mutations in the spanin genes. In both systems, instead of an envelope rupture, the induced cells were converted from a rod shape to a spherical form. A functional GFPΦRz chimera was shown to exhibit a punctate distribution when coexpressed with Rz1, despite the absence of endolysin function. A model is proposed in which the spanins carry out the essential step of disrupting the outer membrane, in a manner regulated by the state of the peptidoglycan layer.
The mycobacteriophage Ms6 is a temperate double-stranded DNA (dsDNA) bacteriophage which, in addition to the predicted endolysin (LysA)-holin (Gp4) lysis system, encodes three additional proteins within its lysis module: Gp1, LysB, and Gp5. Ms6 Gp4 was previously described as a class II holin-like protein. By analysis of the amino acid sequence of Gp4, an N-terminal signal-arrest-release (SAR) domain was identified, followed by a typical transmembrane domain (TMD), features which have previously been observed for pinholins. A second putative holin gene (gp5) encoding a protein with a predicted single TMD at the N-terminal region was identified at the end of the Ms6 lytic operon. Neither the putative class II holin nor the single TMD polypeptide could trigger lysis in pairwise combinations with the endolysin LysA in Escherichia coli. One-step growth curves and single-burst-size experiments of different Ms6 derivatives with deletions in different regions of the lysis operon demonstrated that the gene products of gp4 and gp5, although nonessential for phage viability, appear to play a role in controlling the timing of lysis: an Ms6 mutant with a deletion of gp4 (Ms6Δgp4) caused slightly accelerated lysis, whereas an Ms6Δgp5 deletion mutant delayed lysis, which is consistent with holin function. Additionally, cross-linking experiments showed that Ms6 Gp4 and Gp5 oligomerize and that both proteins interact. Our results suggest that in Ms6 infection, the correct and programmed timing of lysis is achieved by the combined action of Gp4 and Gp5.
The phage 21 holin, S21, forms small membrane holes that depolarize the membrane and is designated as a pinholin, as opposed to large-hole-forming holins, like Sλ. Pinholins require secreted SAR endolysins, a pairing that may represent an intermediate in the evolution of canonical holin-endolysin systems.
Crystallization and X-ray data collection of the C-terminus of gp36 from bacteriophage ϕKMV (KMV36C) are reported.
The C-terminus of gp36 of bacteriophage ϕKMV (KMV36C) functions as a particle-associated muramidase, presumably as part of the injection needle of the ϕKMV genome during infection. Crystals of KMV36C were obtained by hanging-drop vapour diffusion and diffracted to a resolution of 1.6 Å. The crystals belong to the cubic space group P432, with unit-cell parameters a = b = c = 102.52 Å. KMV36C shows 30% sequence identity to T4 lysozyme (PDB code 1l56).
phage infection; endolysin; T4 lysozyme; ϕKMV
Lambdoid phage 21 has the prototype pinholin-SAR endolysin lysis system, which is widely distributed among phages. Its prototype pinholin, S2168, triggers at an allele-specific time to form small, heptameric lesions, or pinholes, in the cytoplasmic membrane, thus initiating lysis. S2168 has two transmembrane domains, TMD1 and TMD2. Only TMD2 is required for the formation of pinholes, whereas TMD1 acts as an inhibitor of TMD2 and must be externalized to the periplasm in the lytic pathway. Previously we provided evidence that S2168 first accumulates as inactive dimers with both transmembrane domains embedded in the bilayer. Here we analyze an extensive collection of S21 mutants to identify residues and domains critical to the function and regulation of the pinholin. Evidence is presented indicating that, within the inactive dimer, TMD1 acts in trans as an inhibitor of the lethal function of TMD2. A wide range of phenotypes, from absolute lysis-defectives to accelerated lysis triggering are observed for mutations mapping to each topological domain. The pattern of phenotypes allows the generation of a model for the structure of the inactive dimer. The model identifies the faces of the two transmembrane domains involved in intramolecular and intermolecular interactions, as well as interaction with the lipid.
bacteriophage; holin; lysis; SAR domain; membrane protein
Pantoea agglomerans is a common soil bacterium used in the biocontrol of fungi and bacteria but is also an opportunistic human pathogen. It has been described extensively in this context, but knowledge of bacteriophages infecting this species is limited. Bacteriophages LIMEzero and LIMElight of P. agglomerans are lytic phages, isolated from soil samples, belonging to the Podoviridae and are the first Pantoea phages of this family to be described. The double-stranded DNA (dsDNA) genomes (43,032 bp and 44,546 bp, respectively) encode 57 and 55 open reading frames (ORFs). Based on the presence of an RNA polymerase in their genomes and their overall genome architecture, these phages should be classified in the subfamily of the Autographivirinae, within the genus of the “phiKMV-like viruses.” Phylogenetic analysis of all the sequenced members of the Autographivirinae supports the classification of phages LIMElight and LIMEzero as members of the “phiKMV-like viruses” and corroborates the subdivision into the different genera. These data expand the knowledge of Pantoea phages and illustrate the wide host diversity of phages within the “phiKMV-like viruses.”
Phage holins are small, lethal membrane proteins of two general types: canonical holins, like λ S105, which oligomerizes and forms large membrane holes of unprecedented size; and pinholins, like S2168 of lambdoid phage 21, which forms homo-heptameric channels, or pinholes, with a lumen of < 2 nm. Pinholes depolarize the membrane, leading to activation of secreted endolysins and murein degradation. S2168 has two transmembrane domains, TMD1 and TMD2. TMD2 alone lines the pinhole, making heterotypic interactions involving two surfaces, A and B. Mutational analysis on S2168 suggested that S2168 initially forms inactive dimer, with TMD1 inhibiting TMD2 both in cis and trans. When TMD1 exits the membrane to the periplasm, it liberates TMD2 to participate in the pathway to pinhole formation. In this study, further mutational analysis suggests a refined pinhole formation pathway, with the existence of at least two intermediate states. We propose that the pathway begins in the activated dimer state, with a homotypic TMD2 interface involving the A surface. Evidence is presented for a further oligomeric state involving a heterotypic A:B interaction. Moreover, the data suggest that a glycine-zipper motif present in the A interface of TMD2 is involved in every stage downstream of the inactive dimer.
bacteriophage; holin; lysis; SAR domain; membrane protein
Lysis inhibition (LIN) of T4-infected cells was one of the foundational experimental systems for modern molecular genetics. In LIN, secondary infection of T4-infected cells results in a dramatically protracted infection cycle in which intracellular phage and endolysin accumulation can continue for hours. At the molecular level, this is due to the inhibition of the holin, T, by the antiholin, RI. RI is only 97 residues and contains an N-terminal hydrophobic domain and a C-terminal hydrophilic domain; expression of the latter domain fused to a secretory signal sequence is sufficient to impose LIN, due to its specific interaction with the periplasmic domain of the T holin. Here we show that the N-terminal sequence comprises a signal anchor release (SAR) domain, which causes the secretion of RI in a membrane-tethered form and then its subsequent release into the periplasm, without proteolytic processing. Moreover, the SAR domain confers both functional lability and DegP-mediated proteolytic instability on the released form of RI, although LIN is not affected in a degP host. These results are discussed in terms of a model for the activation of RI in the establishment of the LIN state.
Clostridium perfringens commonly occurs in food and feed, can produce an enterotoxin frequently implicated in food-borne disease, and has a substantial negative impact on the poultry industry. As a step towards new approaches for control of this organism, we investigated the cell wall lysis system of C. perfringens bacteriophage φ3626, whose dual lysis gene cassette consists of a holin gene and an endolysin gene. Hol3626 has two membrane-spanning domains (MSDs) and is a group II holin. A positively charged beta turn between the two MSDs suggests that both the amino terminus and the carboxy terminus of Hol3626 might be located outside the cell membrane, a very unusual holin topology. Holin function was experimentally demonstrated by using the ability of the holin to complement a deletion of the heterologous phage λ S holin in λΔSthf. The endolysin gene ply3626 was cloned in Escherichia coli. However, protein synthesis occurred only when bacteria were supplemented with rare tRNAArg and tRNAIle genes. Formation of inclusion bodies could be avoided by drastically lowering the expression level. Amino-terminal modification by a six-histidine tag did not affect enzyme activity and enabled purification by metal chelate affinity chromatography. Ply3626 has an N-terminal amidase domain and a unique C-terminal portion, which might be responsible for the specific lytic range of the enzyme. All 48 tested strains of C. perfringens were sensitive to the murein hydrolase, whereas other clostridia and bacteria belonging to other genera were generally not affected. This highly specific activity towards C. perfringens might be useful for novel biocontrol measures in food, feed, and complex microbial communities.
Double-stranded DNA phages require two proteins for efficient host lysis: the endolysin, a muralytic enzyme, and the holin, a small membrane protein. In an event that defines the end of the vegetative cycle, the λ holin S acts suddenly to permeabilize the membrane. This permeabilization enables the R endolysin to attack the cell wall, after which cell lysis occurs within seconds. A C-terminal fusion of the R endolysin with full-length β-galactosidase (β-Gal) was tested for lytic competence in the context of the late-gene expression system of an induced λ lysogen. Under these conditions, the hybrid R-β-Gal product, an active tetrameric β-Gal greater than 480 kDa in mass, was fully functional in lysis mediated by the S holin. Western blot analysis demonstrated that the lytic competence was not due to the proteolytic release of the endolysin domain of the R-β-Gal fusion protein. The ability of this massive complex to be released by the S holin suggests that S causes a generalized membrane disruption rather than a regular oligomeric membrane pore. Similar results were obtained with an early lysis variant of the S holin and also in parallel experiments with the T4 holin, T, in an identical lambda context. However, premature holin lesions triggered by depolarization of the membrane were nonpermissive for the hybrid endolysin, indicating that these premature lesions constituted less-profound damage to the membrane. Finally, a truncated T holin functional in lysis with the endolysin is completely incompetent for lysis with the hybrid endolysin. A model for the formation of the membrane lesion within homo-oligomeric rafts of holin proteins is discussed.
Bacteriophage λ uses a holin-endolysin system for host cell lysis. R, the endolysin, has muralytic activity. S, the holin, is a small membrane protein that permeabilizes the inner membrane at a precisely scheduled time after infection and allows the endolysin access to its substrate, resulting in host cell lysis. λ S has a single cysteine at position 51 that can be replaced by a serine without loss of the holin function. A collection of 27 single-cysteine products of alleles created from λ SC51S were tested for holin function. Most of the single-cysteine variants retained the ability to support lysis. Mutations with the most defective phenotype clustered in the first two hydrophobic transmembrane domains. Several lines of evidence indicate that S forms an oligomeric structure in the inner membrane. Here we show that oligomerization does not depend on disulfide bridge formation, since the cysteineless SC51S (i) is functional as a holin and (ii) shows the same oligomerization pattern as the parental S protein. In contrast, the lysis-defective SA52V mutant dimerizes but does not form cross-linkable oligomers. Again, dimerization does not depend on the natural cysteine, since the cysteineless lysis-defective SA52V/C51S is found in dimers after treatment of the membrane with a cross-linking agent. Furthermore, under oxidative conditions, dimerization via the natural cysteine is very efficient for SA52V. Both SA52V (dominant negative) and SA48V (antidominant) interact with the parental S protein, as judged by oxidative disulfide bridge formation. Thus, productive and unproductive heterodimer formation between the parental protein and the mutants SA52V and SA48V, respectively, may account for the dominant and antidominant lysis phenotypes. Examination of oxidative dimer formation between S variants with single cysteines in the hydrophobic core of the second membrane-spanning domain revealed that positions 48 and 51 are on a dimer interface. These results are discussed in terms of a three-step model leading to S-dependent hole formation in the inner membrane.
The pathogenesis of Clostridium difficile, the major cause of antibiotic-associated diarrhea, is mainly associated with the production and activities of two major toxins. In many bacteria, toxins are released into the extracellular environment via the general secretion pathways. C. difficile toxins A and B have no export signature and their secretion is not explainable by cell lysis, suggesting that they might be secreted by an unusual mechanism. The TcdE protein encoded within the C. difficile pathogenicity locus (PaLoc) has predicted structural features similar to those of bacteriophage holin proteins. During many types of phage infection, host lysis is driven by an endolysin that crosses the cytoplasmic membrane through a pore formed by holin oligomerization. We demonstrated that TcdE has a holin-like activity by functionally complementing a λ phage deprived of its holin. Similar to λ holin, TcdE expressed in Escherichia coli and C. difficile formed oligomers in the cytoplamic membrane. A C. difficile tcdE mutant strain grew at the same rate as the wild-type strain, but accumulated a dramatically reduced amount of toxin proteins in the medium. However, the complemented tcdE mutant released the toxins efficiently. There was no difference in the abundance of tcdA and tcdB transcripts or of several cytoplasmic proteins in the mutant and the wild-type strains. In addition, TcdE did not overtly affect membrane integrity of C. difficile in the presence of TcdA/TcdB. Thus, TcdE acts as a holin-like protein to facilitate the release of C. difficile toxins to the extracellular environment, but, unlike the phage holins, does not cause the non-specific release of cytosolic contents. TcdE appears to be the first example of a bacterial protein that releases toxins into the environment by a phage-like system.
Clostridium difficile is the causative agent of antibiotic associated diarrhea and has become the most prevalent cause of infectious nosocomial diarrhea in North America and in several countries in Europe. Most virulent strains of C. difficile produce two high molecular weight toxins that are regarded as the primary virulence factors. The mechanism by which these large toxins are secreted from bacterial cells is not known. Unlike most clostridial toxins, they have no export signature and must be secreted by an unusual system. This work investigated the role of a C. difficile membrane protein TcdE in the release of toxins from the bacterial cell. We showed that C. difficile tcdE mutants were defective in toxin release and present evidence that C. difficile TcdE protein activity is similar to that of bacteriophage holin proteins required for lysis of host cells after intracellular phage development. These results suggest that TcdE helps efficient secretion of toxins by a phage type system. However, unlike phages, TcdE does not induce cell lysis. A detailed, mechanistic understanding of the holin-dependent system that mediates toxin secretion may helpful for the development of strategies for preventing and treating C. difficile infections.
Functional redundancy in genomes arises from genes with overlapping functions, allowing phenotypes to persist after gene knockouts. Evolutionary redundancy or evolvability of a genome is one step removed, in that functional redundancy is absent but the genome has the potential to evolve to restore a lost phenotype. Exploring the extent to which this recovery alters gene networks can illuminate how functional gene interactions change through time. Here, the evolvability of lysis was studied in bacteriophage T7, revealing hidden functional interactions. Lysis is the destruction of host cell wall and membranes that releases progeny and is therefore essential for phage propagation. In most phages, lysis is mediated by a two-component genetic module: a muralytic enzyme that degrades the bacterial cell wall (endolysin) and a holin that permeabilizes the inner membrane to allow the endolysin access to the cell wall. T7 carries one known holin, one endolysin, and a second muralytic enzyme that plays little role in lysis by wild-type phage. If the primary endolysin is deleted, the second muralytic enzyme evolves to restore normal lysis after selection for faster growth. Here, a second level of evolutionary redundancy was revealed. When the second muralytic enzyme was prevented from adapting in a genome lacking the primary endolysin, the phage reevolved lysis de novo in the absence of any known muralytic enzymes by changes in multiple genes outside the original lysis module. This second level of redundancy proved to be evolutionarily inferior to the first, and both result in a lower fitness and slower lysis than wild-type T7. Deletion of the holin gene delayed lysis time modestly; fitness was restored by compensatory substitutions in genes that lack known roles in lysis of the wild type.
experimental evolution; lysis; T7 bacteriophage; modularity; genome evolution; adaptive evolution
Endolysins are enzymes used by bacteriophages at the end of their replication cycle to degrade the peptidoglycan of the bacterial host from within, resulting in cell lysis and release of progeny virions. Due to the absence of an outer membrane in the Gram-positive bacterial cell wall, endolysins can access the peptidoglycan and destroy these organisms when applied externally, making them interesting antimicrobial candidates, particularly in light of increasing bacterial drug resistance. This article reviews the modular structure of these enzymes, in which cell wall binding and catalytic functions are separated, as well as their mechanism of action, lytic activity and potential as antimicrobials. It particularly focuses on molecular engineering as a means of optimizing endolysins for specific applications, highlights new developments that may render these proteins active against Gram-negative and intracellular pathogens and summarizes the most recent applications of endolysins in the fields of medicine, food safety, agriculture and biotechnology.
antimicrobial; bacteriophage; detection; endolysin; lysis; peptidoglycan hydrolase; protein engineering
Bacteriophage T4 effects host lysis with a holin, T, and an endolysin, E. T and E accumulate in the membrane and cytoplasm, respectively, throughout the period of late gene expression. At an allele-specific time, T triggers to disrupt the membrane, allowing E to enter the periplasm and attack the peptidoglycan. T triggering can be blocked by secondary infections, leading to the state of lysis inhibition (LIN). LIN requires the T4 antiholin, RI, and is sensitive to the addition of energy poisons. T is unusual among holins in having a large C-terminal periplasmic domain. The rI gene encodes a polypeptide of 97 residues, of which 72 are predicted to be a periplasmic domain. Here, we show that the periplasmic domain of RI is necessary and sufficient to block T-mediated lysis. Moreover, when overexpressed, the periplasmic domain of T (TCTD) was found to abolish LIN in T4 infections and to convert wild-type (wt) T4 plaques from small and fuzzy edged to the classic “r” large, sharp-edged plaque morphology. Although RI could be detected in whole cells, attempts to monitor it during subcellular fractionation were unsuccessful, presumably because RI is a highly unstable protein. However, fusing green fluorescence protein (GFP) to the N terminus of RI created a more stable chimera that could be demonstrated to form complexes with wild-type TCTD and also with its LIN-defective T75I variant. These results suggest that the function of the unusual periplasmic domain of T is to transduce environmental information for the real-time control of lysis timing.
Bacteriophage KP34 is a novel virus belonging to the subfamily Autographivirinae lytic for extended-spectrum β-lactamase-producing Klebsiella pneumoniae strains. Its biological features, morphology, susceptibility to chemical and physical agents, burst size, host specificity and activity spectrum were determined. As a potential antibacterial agent used in therapy, KP34 molecular features including genome sequence and protein composition were examined. Phylogenetic analyses and clustering of KP34 phage genome sequences revealed its clear relationships with “phiKMV-like viruses”. Simultaneously, whole-genome analyses permitted clustering and classification of all phages, with completely sequenced genomes, belonging to the Podoviridae.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00253-011-3149-y) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
φKMV-like bacteriophage; Genome; Klebsiella pneumoniae; Phage therapy; Podoviridae; phiKMV-like viruses
Holins are integral membrane proteins that control the access of phage-encoded muralytic enzymes, or endolysins, to the cell wall by the sudden formation of an uncharacterized homo-oligomeric lesion, or hole, in the membrane, at a precisely defined time. The timing of λ-infected cell lysis depends solely on the 107 codon S gene, which encodes two proteins, S105 and S107, which are the holin and holin inhibitor, respectively. Here we report the results of biochemical and genetic studies on the interaction between the holin and the holin inhibitor. A unique cysteine at position 51, in the middle of the second transmembrane domain, is shown to cause the formation of disulfide-linked dimers during detergent membrane extraction. Forced oxidation of membranes containing S molecules also results in the formation of covalently linked dimers. This technique is used to demonstrate efficient dimeric interactions between S105 and S107. These results, coupled with the previous finding that the timing of lysis depends on the excess of the amount of S105 over S107, suggest a model in which the inhibitor functions by titrating out the effector in a stoichiometric fashion. This provides a basis for understanding two evolutionary advantages provided by the inhibitor system, in which the production of the inhibitor not only causes a delay in the timing of lysis, allowing the assembly of more virions, but also increases effective hole formation after triggering.
Lytic bacteriophage ATCC 8074-B1 produces large plaques on its host Clostridium sporogenes. Sequencing of the 47,595-bp genome allowed the identification of 82 putative open reading frames, including those encoding proteins for head and tail morphogenesis and lysis. However, sequences commonly associated with lysogeny were absent. ORF 22 encodes an endolysin, CS74L, that shows homology to N-acetylmuramoyl-l-alanine amidases, and when expressed in Escherichia coli, the protein causes effective lysis of C. sporogenes cells when added externally. CS74L was also active on Clostridium tyrobutyricum and Clostridium acetobutylicum. The catalytic domain expressed alone (CS74L1–177) exhibited a similar activity and the same host range as the full-length endolysin. A chimeric endolysin consisting of the CS74L catalytic domain fused to the C-terminal domain of endolysin CD27L, derived from Clostridium difficile bacteriophage ΦCD27, was produced. This chimera (CSCD) lysed C. sporogenes cells with an activity equivalent to that of the catalytic domain alone. In contrast, the CD27L C-terminal domain reduced the efficacy of the CS74L catalytic domain when tested against C. tyrobutyricum. The addition of the CD27L C-terminal domain did not enable the lysin to target C. difficile or other CD27L-sensitive bacteria.
Endolysins produced by bacteriophages lyse bacteria, and are thus considered a novel type of antimicrobial agent. Several endolysins from Bacillus phages or prophages have previously been characterized and used to target Bacillus strains that cause disease in animals and humans. B. thuringiensis phage BtCS33 is a Siphoviridae family phage and its genome has been sequenced and analyzed. In the BtCS33 genome, orf18 was found to encode an endolysin protein (PlyBt33).
Bioinformatic analyses showed that endolysin PlyBt33 was composed of two functional domains, the N-terminal catalytic domain and the C-terminal cell wall binding domain. In this study, the entire endolysin PlyBt33, and both the N- and C-termini,were expressed in Escherichia coli and then purified. The lytic activities of PlyBt33 and its N-terminus were tested on bacteria. Both regions exhibited lytic activity, although PlyBt33 showed a higher lytic activity than the N-terminus. PlyBt33 exhibited activity against all Bacillus strains tested from five different species, but was not active against Gram-negative bacteria. Optimal conditions for PlyBt33 reactivity were pH 9.0 and 50°C. PlyBt33 showed high thermostability, with 40% of initial activity remaining following 1 h of treatment at 60°C. The C-terminus of PlyBt33 bound to B. thuringiensis strain HD-73 and Bacillus subtilis strain 168. This cell wall binding domain might be novel, as its amino acid sequence showed little similarity to previously reported endolysins.
PlyBt33 showed potential as a novel antimicrobial agent at a relatively high temperature and had a broad lytic spectrum within the Bacillus genus. The C-terminus of PlyBt33 might be a novel kind of cell wall binding domain.
Bacillus thuringinesis; Bacteriophage; Endolysin; N-acetylmuramoyl-L-alanine amidase
The mycobacterial cell wall presents significant challenges to mycobacteriophages – viruses that infect mycobacterial hosts – because of its unusual structure containing a mycolic acid-rich mycobacterial outer membrane attached to an arabinogalactan layer that is in turn linked to the peptidoglycan. Although little is known about how mycobacteriophages circumvent these barriers during the process of infection, destroying it for lysis at the end of their lytic cycles requires an unusual set of functions. These include Lysin B proteins that cleave the linkage of mycolic acids to the arabinogalactan layer, chaperones required for endolysin delivery to peptidoglycan, holins that regulate lysis timing, and the endolysins (Lysin As) that hydrolyze peptidoglycan. Because mycobacterial peptidoglycan contains atypical features including 3→3 interpeptide linkages, it is not surprising that the mycobacteriophage endolysins also have non-canonical features. We present here a bioinformatic dissection of these lysins and show that they are highly diverse and extensively modular, with an impressive number of domain organizations. Most contain three domains with a novel N-terminal predicted peptidase, a centrally located amidase, muramidase, or transglycosylase, and a C-terminal putative cell wall binding domain.
The ply genes encoding the endolysin proteins from Bacillus cereus phages Bastille, TP21, and 12826 were identified, cloned, and sequenced. The endolysins could be overproduced in Escherichia coli (up to 20% of total cellular protein), and the recombinant proteins were purified by a two-step chromatographical procedure. All three enzymes induced rapid and specific lysis of viable cells of several Bacillus species, with highest activity on B. cereus and B. thuringiensis. Ply12 and Ply21 were experimentally shown to be N-acetylmuramoyl-L-alanine amidases (EC 184.108.40.206). No apparent holin genes were found adjacent to the ply genes. However, Ply21 may be endowed with a signal peptide which could play a role in timing of cell lysis by the cytoplasmic phage endolysin. The individual lytic enzymes (PlyBa, 41.1 kDa; Ply21, 29.5 kDa, Ply12, 27.7 kDa) show remarkable heterogeneity, i.e., their amino acid sequences reveal only little homology. The N-terminal part of Ply21 was found to be almost identical to the catalytic domains of a Bacillus sp. cell wall hydrolase (CwlSP) and an autolysin of B. subtilis (CwlA). The C terminus of PlyBa contains a 77-amino-acid sequence repeat which is also homologous to the binding domain of CwlSP. Ply12 shows homology to the major autolysins from B. subtilis and E. coli. Comparison with database sequences indicated a modular organization of the phage lysis proteins where the enzymatic activity is located in the N-terminal region and the C-termini are responsible for specific recognition and binding of Bacillus peptidoglycan. We speculate that the close relationship of the phage enzymes and cell wall autolysins is based upon horizontal gene transfer among different Bacillus phages and their hosts.
The S gene of bacteriophage lambda encodes the holin required for release of the R endolysin at the onset of phage-induced host lysis. S is the promoter-proximal gene on the single lambda late transcript and spans 107 codons. S has a novel translational initiation region with dual start codons, resulting in the production of two protein products, S105 and S107. Although differing only by the Met-1-Lys-2... N-terminal extension present on S107, the two proteins are thought to have opposing functions, with the shorter polypeptide acting as the lysis effector and the longer one acting as an inhibitor. The expression of wild-type and mutant alleles of the holin gene has been assessed quantitatively with respect to the scheduling of lysis. S mRNA accumulates during the late gene expression period to a final level of about 170 molecules per cell and is maintained at that level for at least the last 15 min before lysis. Total S protein synthesis, partitioned at about 2:1 in favor of the S105 protein compared with the other product, S107, accumulates to a final level of approximately 4,600 molecules per cell. The kinetics of accumulation of S is consistent with a constant translational rate of less than one S protein per mRNA per minute. Mutant alleles with alterations in the translational initiation region were studied to determine how the translational initiation region of S achieves the proper partition of initiation events at the two S start codons and how the synthesis of S105 and S107 relates to lysis timing. The results are discussed in terms of a model for the pathway by which the 30S ribosome-fMet-tRNA complex binds to the translational initiation region of S. In addition, analysis of the relationship between lysis timing and the levels of the two S gene products suggests that S107 inhibits S105, the lethal lysis effector, by a stoichiometric titration.
Peptidoglycan lytic enzymes (endolysins) induce bacterial host cell lysis in the late phase of the lytic bacteriophage replication cycle. Endolysins OBPgp279 (from Pseudomonas fluorescens phage OBP), PVP-SE1gp146 (Salmonella enterica serovar Enteritidis phage PVP-SE1) and 201ϕ2-1gp229 (Pseudomonas chlororaphis phage 201ϕ2-1) all possess a modular structure with an N-terminal cell wall binding domain and a C-terminal catalytic domain, a unique property for endolysins with a Gram-negative background. All three modular endolysins showed strong muralytic activity on the peptidoglycan of a broad range of Gram-negative bacteria, partly due to the presence of the cell wall binding domain. In the case of PVP-SE1gp146, this domain shows a binding affinity for Salmonella peptidoglycan that falls within the range of typical cell adhesion molecules (Kaff = 1.26×106 M−1). Remarkably, PVP-SE1gp146 turns out to be thermoresistant up to temperatures of 90°C, making it a potential candidate as antibacterial component in hurdle technology for food preservation. OBPgp279, on the other hand, is suggested to intrinsically destabilize the outer membrane of Pseudomonas species, thereby gaining access to their peptidoglycan and exerts an antibacterial activity of 1 logarithmic unit reduction. Addition of 0.5 mM EDTA significantly increases the antibacterial activity of the three modular endolysins up to 2–3 logarithmic units reduction. This research work offers perspectives towards elucidation of the structural differences explaining the unique biochemical and antibacterial properties of OBPgp279, PVP-SE1gp146 and 201ϕ2-1gp229. Furthermore, these endolysins extensively enlarge the pool of potential antibacterial compounds used against multi-drug resistant Gram-negative bacterial infections.
Although horizontal gene transfer plays a pivotal role in bacteriophage evolution, many lytic phage genomes are clearly shaped by vertical evolution. We investigated the influence of minor genomic deletions and insertions on various phage-related phenotypic and serological properties.
We collected ten different isolates of Pseudomonas aeruginosa bacteriophage ϕKMV. All sequenced genomes (42-43 kb, long direct terminal repeats) are nearly identical, which intuitively implied strongly similar infections cycles. However, their latent periods vary between 21 and 28 minutes and they are able to lyse between 5 and 58% of a collection of 107 clinical P. aeruginosa strains. We also noted that phages with identical tail structures displayed profound differences in host spectra. Moreover, point mutations in tail and spike proteins were sufficient to evade neutralization by two phage-specific antisera, isolated from rabbits.
Although all analyzed phages are 83-97% identical at the genome level, they display a surprisingly large variation in various phenotypic properties. The small overlap in host spectrum and their ability to readily escape immune defences against a nearly identical phage are promising elements for the application of these phages in phage therapy.